The Oregon State Beavers will try to knock off the 10th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the Kansas City Shootout on Friday night at the Sprint Center.
The Beavers are off to their second consecutive 4-1 to start, marking the first time the program has endured just s single loss through the first five games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999-2000. There is clearly a noticeable change to the program's culture after it led the Pac-12 Conference in scoring last season. Oregon State has played extremely well at the defensive end of the floor in its victories, as all four foes have shot less than 40 percent from the field. The Beavers tied a school record the last time out with 11 blocked shots, which resulted in a 78-65 decision over Montana State. Including its loss to Alabama, coach Craig Robinson's squad is limiting opponents to 66.6 ppg on 36.4 percent shooting this season.
A three-point loss to Michigan State in the Champions Classic is the only blemish on the Jayhawks' record so far. Kansas won its fourth consecutive game on Monday by downing San Jose State, 70-57. Coach Bill Self's team is averaging 71.3 ppg and outscoring its opponents by an average of 15.7 ppg. Self has had little trouble versus opposition from the Pac-12 recently, as Kansas enters with nine straight wins versus opponents from the league. The Jayhawks are also tough at the defensive end and they lead all Division I programs with 10 blocks per game after setting a school record with 16 swats in its last appearance.
This will be the first meeting on the basketball court between these two programs.
Oregon State was fueled by a spectacular performance by Joe Burton in its most recent outing, as the senior big man set a career-high with 21 points and added 10 rebounds for good measure. The diminutive Ahmad Starks nearly recorded a double-double versus Montana State as well with 14 points and nine boards. Eric Moreland did manage a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Starks paces the team with 14.6 ppg, while Burton (11.6 ppg) and Roberto Nelson (10.8 ppg) are also double-digit scorers. Moreland is the top rebounder with 10.4 caroms per contest. Moreland has swatted 12 shots after leading the Pac-12 with 1.9 blocks per game as a freshman a year ago.
Burton will struggle to replicate his career performance versus the Jayhawks with Jeff Withey in the middle. The senior center became the second player in KU history to record a triple-double his last time out by producing 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots versus SJSU. Withey stood out as an elite defender during the team's run to the NCAA Championship Game last season, but he now paces the squad with 14.2 ppg and 8.7 rpg as well. Freshman guard Ben McLemore has helped replace some of the lost offensive firepower by contributing 13.8 ppg. Senior guards Travis Releford (12 ppg) and Elijah Johnson (10.7 ppg) are also scoring in double digits on a consistent basis. Johnson is the club's primary playmaker with 4.2 assists per contest.